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Pakistani Christians protesting recent killing

Thousands of Pakistani Christians on Thursday, March 03, took part in protest rallies across Pakistan to show their anger against the brutal assassination of the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, in Islamabad.
 


Ed: The following are reports which have recently been received concerning the killing of Pakistani Christian and government minister Shahbaz Bhatti. See also 'The Fifth Column and Feeding the Crocodile'.

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Thousands Protest killing of Shahbaz Bhatti

by Rodrick Samson


Pakistan protests murder of ShThousands of Pakistani Christians on Thursday, March 03, took part in protest rallies across Pakistan to show their anger against the brutal assassination of the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, in Islamabad.

The protesting Christians, who rallied in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Layyah, Khushpur and other Christian population areas, were holding banners and placards and they also chanted anti-terrorism slogans.

In Islamabad, Father Anwer Patras Gill started with a prayer for Shahbaz Bhatti and the grieving family. He announced that a formal prayer mass would be held on Friday morning 9am at the Lady Fatima Catholic Church located in F-8, Islamabad. The Christian community blocked the road towards Islamabad, burned tires and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits, they had banners stating “Anyone who speaks the truth is unsafe,” “Bhatti your blood is the beginning of a revolution.”

Addressing one of the rallies, the All Pakistan Minority Alliance (AMPA) senior member and member of the Provincial Assembly, Pervaiz Rafique, said, “Shahbaz Bhatti said he would defy Islamist militants and would go ahead to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and in so doing he gave his life for the cause. Now we will carry on his mission.”

Another APMA member, Khalid Gill, in condemning the assassination said, “The APMA will observe official mourning for 40 days. The Government has announced that the seat of the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs will be given to someone from Bhatti‘s family.”

In Lahore the major a protest was organized at the Lahore Press Club, with human rights groups leading the protest. This included National Commission for Peace and Justice director, Emanuel Mani, Masiha Millat, party leader, Aslam Sahotra, Center for Human Rights Education director, Samson Salamat, and Life for All spokesperson, Kashif Mazhar.

The protesters demanded the immediate arrest of those involved in the murder of the minister and chanted slogans against the Taliban, extremist clerics, and terrorists, as well as the assassin of former Punjab governor, Salman Taseer.

The Joint Committee of Fathers (JCF) issued a statement saying: “We, the church leaders in Pakistan, express our deep grief on the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti.

“We believe that the country has lost a patriotic statesman and campaigner for interfaith harmony. The government needs to go beyond the rhetoric of minorities enjoying all the rights in the country.

“If the country becomes a killing field for individuals who exercise their freedom of conscience and expression, it will only embolden the criminals to try to take charge of Pakistan.”

Mr. Rizwan Paul from Life For All said, “This incident has spread fear among all minorities living in Pakistan. It means that no one is safe. Our ancestors did not vote for Pakistan for this day.

“Tomorrow if I say something that someone doesn’t agree with, will I also be killed? When people can kill with so much impunity in the capital, no one is safe. Our villages are being burnt and our people killed. What justice is this?

“I am afraid that worst type of ‘extremism’ is developing across the globe and so-called ‘moderate’ and ‘enlightened’ people also fall in this category. If you expect tolerance from people who have different beliefs, please learn to show tolerance towards them too.”

Gerrard Bhatti—Shahbaz Bhatti’s elder brother—said, “The FIR (First Information Report) No. 94/11 has been registered. Our whole family is devastated over the huge loss.

“Since his childhood, Bhatti was passionate to fight for the rights of the minorities; he wanted to raise the voice for the persecuted and the discriminated. He mentioned to me once about the life threats, I asked him to leave the country for a while, but he refused saying that he doesn’t fear death. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the cause.”

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Protest Rally against Shahbaz Bhatti’s Assassination
By Dan Wooding

Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), recently organized a protest rally in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad, against the brutal assassination of the Federal Mnister for Minorities’ affairs Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti.

Hundreds of men, women and children from different walks of life participated in this rally to protest against what they called this “inhuman act” and they heard speeches against “fundamentalism” and “extremism.”
A spokesperson for HRFP told the ASSIST News Service that they were protesting the brutal killing of Mr. Bhatti, a commited Christian for his “struggle against the discriminatory laws, blasphemy laws, and his strong stand for Ms. Asia Bibi, who is behind the bars under this law and has been sentenced to death.”

The spokesperson added, “Shahbaz Bhatti has been receiving threats from the extremists since he tried to help Asia Bibi and other victims of the country’s blasphemy laws. In spite of these threats, he showed bravery and confidence and, as a result, he laid down his life for this cause. His murder is a threat to our minorities and the brave activists who are struggling for the repeal of this law.”

The group says that a pamphlet was found at the spot where Mr. Bhatti was murdered in Islamabad.

“It was a religious degree calling for the murder the Shahbaz Bhatti and came from the fundamentalist and militant group, Tehreek e Taliban,” said the spokesperson.

At the protest rally, several speakers addressed the crowd, including Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, who condemned the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.

He stated, “The mission of Shahbaz Bhatti will remain. He was a follower of the great Quaid Muhammad Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) who used to say that ‘religion is a personal matter, but we all belong to Pakistan.’ He wanted to establish a secular Pakistan and this was the real vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.”

Walter added, “We will also lay down our lives for this cause. Pakistan is our country and we wish to see it as a progressive country.

“Now, after losing Shahbaz Bhatti, we will find different strategies to promote the culture of peace and harmony and for the total repeal of these laws.”

Human Rights Focus Pakistan is registered under the Pakistan Societies Registration Act 1860 NS was established in 1994 to work for the promotion and protection of human rights with special focus in women, children and minorities.

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Bhatti’s murder poses real challenge
By Rodrick Samson

A few years ago, Shahbaz Bhatti confided in a friend: “I don’t want to get married, because I know that sooner or later an assassin’s bullet will find me; it will only be unfair to that woman and my children.” That friend, a Pakistani origin Christian, now lives in exile in Sweden.

The last time I met Bhatti, it was at the eve of a diplomatic farewell to Jan De Kok, the EU Ambassador to Pakistan. He wore his usual smile that often reminded me of Jagjit’s ghazal*:
Kyun itna tum muskara rahay ho,
Kiya ghum hay jisay chupa rahay ho?
(Why do you smile so much? What hurts so much that you need to hide?)

We spoke briefly about the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, the blasphemy laws, our inability to create a political consensus to reform them and his caution to appear on TV programs due to mounting threats. I also told him that his heading the Parliamentary Committee that was supposedly reviewing these laws was a political mistake; for this gave an excuse to obscurantist elements to block all progress on this issue.

This soft spoken, quiet gentleman paused and reflected and surprisingly agreed with me. Little did I realize that the shadowy assassins would soon cite this as a cause to puncture his torso 30 with bullet holes.

It is only natural when people compare this with Taseer’s murder. Yet there are chilling differences that should not be missed. Mumtaz Qadri’s act -he was supposed to be her bodyguard—in the end, represented the state of mind of an impressionable individual.

An amateurish media that often reported, without critically analyzing, added to the enabling atmosphere in which Qadri could derive justification for his tragic actions.

But Bhatti’s murderers, irrespective of who they really are, have done a conscious calculated attempt to shift back the Pakistani political field away from nationalistic sentiments generated by the Raymond Davis affair.

But there is yet another difference. Religious parties like JUI-F and JI were trying to gain space at the expense of the mainstream political parties for in the end they see their future inside the parliamentary democracy. However, these terrorist whose nature we can endlessly debate are now trying to extract ground from these established religious parties of Pakistan.

Through this brazen act, the terrorists are now trying to squeeze more milk out of an issue that was first irresponsibly handled by the PPP, mainstream religious parties and the liberal intelligentsia. It is an issue that was effectively displaced in the agendas of religious parties and public consciousness by the more worldly Raymond Davis affair (an American charged in a double murder case).

* Ghazal is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.

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The Crown... or the Cross?
by Rick Marschall

The murder of one of the last prominent and courageous Christian voices in Pakistan challenges us to contemplate the role of the Cross in believers’ lives.


The assassination this week of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister of Minorities in Pakistan, is a story that garnered some attention in the news, but for the most part was subsumed by other reports on related issues from the Islamic world.

Shahbaz was the only Christian in the national cabinet, a brave advocate of religious freedom before world forums and in his own land. The news that crowded his murder from the headlines included other assassinations; street protests; Christians being arrested; Muslim factional hatred; Christians fleeing their homelands; government crackdowns; Christian churches being invaded; piracy, kidnappings and murder; and Christian martyrdom, from lowly believers and pastors to prominent officials in several countries.

According to the BBC, “Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had just left his mother’s home in a suburb of the capital when several gunmen surrounded his vehicle and riddled it with bullets, say witnesses.” He routinely had been receiving death threats for urging reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “Pamphlets by al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan’s most populous province, were found at the scene.” Tehrik-i-Taliban told BBC Urdu they carried out the attack.

Four months ago, Shahbaz said in a video, “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] cross. And I am following. the cross,” he said. “I am ready to die for the cross.” He spoke these words calmly and with confidence. He knew he was reciting his own epitaph. Shahbaz was not a supernatural prophet - he surely knew the dangers to his life - rather he was a humble servant, an obedient follower.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (Matthew 16:24).

Shahbaz correctly pinpointed the center of our world’s coming crisis - not economies nor resources nor pollution; not even religion - but the cross of Jesus Christ. And the persecuted church, in so many of the world’s fiery corners, understands this. Despite the horrible treatment of uncountable Christian martyrs, now approaching one a minute, every day, around the world, that persecuted church is being purified, like gold in a fire.

While some Christians in the west concern themselves with the “Prosperity Gospel,” and debate universalist theories that everyone is going to Heaven, “if there is a Heaven,” Christ-followers and missionaries and martyrs elsewhere in the world work to “know Christ and make Him known.”

The “crown” is the exclusive focus of too many Christians. Christ promised an abundant life, certainly; but He offered, and warned, and promised, the burden (mysteriously, a glorious burden!) of the “cross.” Plausible Christianity is that the Crown awaits us in Heaven; and the Cross is our lot here.

“It is one thing to kneel at the foot of the cross for forgiveness; it is quite another thing to get on that cross to follow Jesus in His death. But it is the only way to live the resurrected life. This is what it means to be His disciple. When we live the crucified life, nothing can truly harm us. You can’t hurt a dead person.” So wrote a friend, singer/songwriter Becky Spencer, this week. “Our churches are filled with bored, dissatisfied Christians. Not because our God isn’t enough, but because most of them have only visited the cross once for salvation. It is meant to be embraced every day.”

I did not know Shahbaz Bhatti, but three of my close friends did, and I cannot say that I would speak his mind here, but his murder this week has me thinking more than ever about the persecution of Christians, and our proper response as believers ourselves - response not alone to the situation of martyrs, but response to Christ’s commission. And it all has to do with the Cross, the Cross.

Jesus came to save us from our sins, but not from the effects of our sins; nor the world’s persecution; nor evil, punishment, or sickness; because there is sin in the world. And, as He offers forgiveness from sin, it might be said that He did not come to grab us from hell or push us into Heaven. His ministry was to keep hell out of people, and put Heaven into us, so to speak. We are to do His work while we are here.

Christians often think we have to “close the deal” and assure that people have eternal life. But all we can do is quote the Promise. To presume that we can do any more might be to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, whose work this really is. Believers, by responding to the invitation to believe on Jesus, have a say in that; and God, of course, is the Judge.

So what is left? To servants like Shabaz Bhatti, and to missionaries in heathen areas (including—think about it—you and me, right in our neighborhoods), our work is to do Christ’s work. Here. And now. Working to keep hell out of people and planting a little Heaven—by sharing belief in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us, as Shahbaz testified; that He is not just one way, but the way to God - this must be our mission. And our privilege. And our Cross.

Jesus did not warn, but He promised, that the world will hate that message. It hated that message when He spoke it, and He was crucified on the cross. It hates that message when we speak it, and the world will likewise and therefore hate us. To take up the Cross and follow Him is not an option. It is as much a part of being a Christian as confessing Jesus as Savior.

The Book of Revelation tells us that to add or subtract a word from scripture is anathema, yet I would venture to say that in Heaven another verse has been added this week to Hebrews, Chapter 11. That book is “the Hall of Fame of Faith,” listing great heroes and martyrs of the faith—many of whom did not live to see the fruits of their service and sacrifice. “By faith, Shahbaz.”

God bless you, brother. None of your countrymen will come closer to the Truth through the motives of a dozen cowardly murderers. But I pray that millions will see the Truth through your martyrdom, your purity of faith, your service to the cross of Christ. And He will be glorified. Amen.

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Muslims in Pakistan threaten to burn entire Christian village over interfaith couple’s row
By Jawad Mazhar

Following on the heels of the shocking case of Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Pakistani Christian woman and mother of five who has been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, and in whose defense Punjab Governor Salman Taseer lost his life, comes the strange case of another Christian woman who has been charged with blasphemy under the country’s law that has been condemned around the world.

Hardliner Muslim clerics and landlords of the village Rana near Wandu, situated on the outskirts of Gujranwala city, threatened to torch the homes of every Christian in the community and abduct Christian girls over the love affair of a Christian boy and Muslim girl, within the precincts of Wandu police station on Saturday February 20th. A leading Christian rights activist of the ‘All Pakistan Minorities Alliance’ (APMA) Abid Saaid Gill told ANS about the sad episode.

Replying to a query about the incident, APMA’s stalwart and hands on activist Gill told ANS that a love affair had gradually developed between a Christian youth identified as Mohsin Masih, alias Chandu (24 years old) and a Muslim girl of the Rana village’s blacksmith identified as Muhammad Asghar’s 23-year-old daughter Amina Bibi.

Both the lovers planned to elope and successfully absconded to get married, said Amjad Masih a local Christian elder of the Rana village talking to ANS. But the situation became horrible for local Christians in Rana village and Wandu village, as Muslim clerics and local Muslim landlords started to threaten Christian villagers. They also submitted an application at Wandu Police Station against the Christian youth and his family.

When ANS inquired about the kinds of threats Muslims hurled at local villagers Abid Saaid Gill recounted that Muslim fanatic clerics, accompanied by local Muslim influential and rich land owners threatened to torch houses of the local Christians. They also threatened of dire consequences including forcibly evicting the local Christians from the villages and most terrorizing of all the threats was to abduct Christian girls and rape them.

Abid Saaid Gill of Gujranwala city further said Amjad Masih of Rana village told him about the sad and painful episode and pleaded APMA to intervene as police had also started to threaten local Christians and search the interfaith couple.

According to the statement of Gill, obtained by ANS, APMA intervened and contacted high level police officials including Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Criminals Investigation Agency (CIA) of Civil Lines circle and Station House Officer (SHO) of Wandu Police Station.

Abid Saaid Gill and Amjad Masih both said due to the joint hectic efforts of APMA and police the interfaith couple was recovered, who were still trying to tie knots through the local court, unaware that the situation behind them for Christians was deteriorating and hapless impoverished Christians, most of them laborers were living under the shadow of constant fear for their homes and girls.

After the recovery of the interfaith lovers on Saturday Feb 20th the girl was returned back to her parents, but Wandu Police put the Christian youth Mohsin Masih alias Chandu of Rana village behind bars and started investigations and interrogating the Christian youth, who constantly denied kidnapping the Muslim girl, said Gill talking to ANS.

On the other hand the local court summoned the Muhammad Asghar local ironsmith’s daughter to record her statement in the court house, Gill went on to say to ANS about the girls statement. In the courthouse Amina Bib daughter of Muhammad Asghar recorded her statement that she was sui-juris and that Christian boy Mohsin Masih alias Chandu had not abducted her instead she eloped with him willingly.

Abid Saaid Gill said after Amina Bibi’s statement in favor of the Christian youth Chandu local court as well as Wandu Police Station exonerated the Christian of all the allegations levelled against him by the Muslim clerics and Muslim landlords. The case of abducting a Muslim girl against Mohsin Masih was also revoked and he was set on liberty after three days by Wandu Police station, added Gill.

Although after feverish efforts the interfaith lovers were recovered by APMA and police the Muslims kept threatening Christian villagers, Gill and Amjad Masih said talking to ANS, and local Christians were living under constant fear of death. Both Christian leaders said they appealed local Wandu Police Station SHO and SP CIA for protection of the Christians.

On the request of APMA 200 (two hundred) armed Policemen led by SHO Wandu police arrived in the village to ensure that Christians remain safe and no Muslim fanatics dare to touch any of the Christians. Amjad Masih a Christian rights worker of APMA and local resident of Rana village said SHO and 200 policemen remained in the village until 4am on the February 22nd.

Amjad Masih and Abid Saaid Gill both thanked the Lord Jesus Christ that the dispute between Muslims and Christians was resolved peacefully, although they threatened to make it second Gojra to teach a lesson to Christians not to dare falling in love with a Muslim girl.


See also: The Fifth Column and Feeding the Crocodile

Christians Together, 08/03/2011

Feedback:
Editor 09/03/2011 16:53
Clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, have left 11 people dead and more than 90 wounded.

The clashes broke out on Tuesday night as thousands of Christians protested against the burning of a Cairo church last week. The church was set on fire after tensions escalated over a love affair between a Muslim and a Christian that set off a violent feud between the couple's families.

Security and hospital officials said six Christians and five Muslims died from gunshot wounds and 94 people – 73 Muslims and 21 Christians – were wounded.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/09/muslim-christian-clashes-cairo
Editor 10/03/2011 09:38
The following has come to me from a Pakistani church leader who is a member of Christians Together web site. I have removed the names mentioned for security reasons.

"A heavy bomb blast killed twenty six and injured 156 in the third biggest city, Faisalabad ( Industrial hub of Pakistan) on March 08, 2011. The blast aimed to hit Pakistan's secret Agency's office. The car blasted near the main gate of the agency. A fuel station, dozens of vars, vans and rickshaws etc, Two buildings reduced to ashes.

Among the dead four poor Christians were workers of fuel station died. One them was [SJ] 32 son of [WJ]from [MJ] in [name of District]. [S] had been washing the cars at fuel station. [BS] was from Faisalabad.

Martin Lisemore 10/03/2011 10:14
We get very upset at attacks on Christians and our way of life in the UK, and forget, it's often a life and death matter in other parts of the world.

Sort of puts our problems in perspective.
Editor 31/03/2011 16:51
A Tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti By Alistair Burt MP,
Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East & South Asia, for Shahbaz Bhatti's memorial service, St Margaret's Church, 17 March 2011.

Many of us here, gathered together on this sad occasion, know a little about the cost of public life. Torrents of mail, sharp criticism at times, sometimes a demonstration or even eating a little humble pie if the pressures of politics mean we occasionally have to go back on something we had promised, in all good conscience, to do.

But holding to our principles rarely comes close to inspiring violence against us, or risks our life. Shahbaz Bhatti touches us so deeply because he lived for principles we all hold dear in a manner and a place where to hold such views put him at risk, and ultimately took his life. I only got to know Shahbaz this year, in my role as Minister for South Asia, and I am deeply honoured to be asked to pay tribute to him in front of those who will have know him far better than I.

We met in my room at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and spoke a number of times on the phone, when he was in the UK and back in Pakistan. He told me of his fears and anxieties, not simply for himself, as he was remarkably brave, but for his country as the pressure increased on those who spoke out in favour of tolerance.

We discussed the abuse of blasphemy laws, and how they were being used to persecute, or to cheat in land disputes. And we spoke of his country and his people who he loved so dearly, and for whom he had such high hopes, and of his belief that he could use his position to advance the right causes that affected them. For though many of us tonight will know him through, and honour him for, his faith and belief in Jesus, we should recognise him also as a committed and successful national politician.

His commitment to minorities took him to support those with a variety of backgrounds, to advocate successfully on their behalf both inside and outside Parliament, and to hold down a most difficult job as a Minister in Pakistan with this as the brief.

But he is best known to many of us here as a Christian minister, who bravely took himself into the issues affecting discrimination against the Christian community, for which he was prepared to stand up in public. Not only in his own country but abroad, where he believed that his country could be seen to achieve more if it was prepared to confront the issues behind the Blasphemy laws openly and stand up to those whose answer to challenge on human rights and freedom was terror and violence.

He believed you don't change hearts and minds through shying away. That good people can be inspired by leadership. That the difficult challenges facing his country are not dealt with through silence, and that the forces of good in Pakistan, of which there are many, made visible in so many good people too, must find a voice, despite the risk to some of those voices.

What was his favourite prayer or chorus? I don't believe I know, but these words speak to me about the man, his faith and his confidence:

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Could ever pluck me from his hand,
Till he returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.

Is this all there is? Passionate tributes in a foreign land and a sad shaking of heads as we try to come to terms with wickedness? Surely not.

So how should we commemorate Shahbaz Bhatti? What can we do, each and everyone of us, to ensure that his life and death will not be a victory of the forces of darkness and extremism, but instead an inspiration to those who share his values?

We can rededicate ourselves to moderation in opposition to extremism, to tolerance and not exclusion, to liberty rather than oppression and to challenge what's wrong, rather than letting be. Let us each be a living tribute to our friend, and by our lives honour him through our words, our actions and above all our deeds.

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Further informatin about Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer -
http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/stories/shahbaz_bhatti.php
Wilson Chowdhry (BPCA) (Guest) 04/03/2012 19:53
Please join our UK Protest and peace concrt against th persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Islamic World:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html

Wilson Chowdhry
Chairman
Bristish Pakistani Christian Association

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